When will the US produce a soccer coach who can win respect in England?

Jesse Marsch had a point to make. He made it quite well and long. Last month I had the opportunity to become an expert on Sky Sports’ flagship Monday Night Football, the Wisconsinite zoomed across the studio’s touchpad with the same enthusiasm he’d expect from high-pressure players. His casual attire of stonewashed jeans and shiny white sneakers did not detract from the fact that this was a presentation aimed at future employers, club owners; MNF has become a regular means for unemployed managers to announce that they are ready to work again.

“I love the Premier League and I love the power of what the league means globally, but honestly the real answer is I want to find like-minded people who are committed to developing people, relationships and building something,” he said. Although Jamie Carragher occasionally struggled through the 45-minute coaching masterclass, there was little doubt that Marsch is detailed and has an authentic knowledge of modern football.

Few sensible English people will object to their favorite game being called ‘soccer’, but there remains resistance to – and a mockery of – American football terms, even though there is a near majority of Premier League holders from across the Atlantic (the EFL is also flush with US investments). Norwich manager David Wagner, a former American international who speaks the lingua franca of European football because of his German upbringing, has never encountered such resistance. Although English football may just be waiting for an American coach whose quality, charisma and performance make him a slam-dunk candidate for the top job.

After all, the idea of ​​an Australian managing a ‘Big Six’ Premier League club seemed unlikely until Ange Postecoglou came along, and for all the fun he got from his accent and phrasing, doubts about his credentials have disappeared. He is currently linked with the impending vacancy at Liverpool. So far, the two US-raised Americans who have managed Premier League teams – Marsch at Leeds and Bob Bradley, at Swansea for a painfully brief spell in 2016 – have not commanded the same respect.

As the US’s top coaching export, and with that large share of US owner-investors, it was long likely that Marsch would wash up in the Premier League, especially given English football’s habit of sourcing talent from German clubs to take away. His Red Bull references especially came in handy. The multi-club organization that owns New York and Red Bull Salzburg, plus RB Leipzig, is admired as a talent factory, with the clubs sharing a coaching philosophy, a ‘DNA’, to use that scientifically incorrect buzzword.

Leeds turned out to be the wrong club for Marsch. He succeeded Marcelo Bielsa, a demigod at Leeds and the club’s most popular manager since Don Revie – and that includes Howard Wilkinson, who guided them to the title in 1992. The ultra-risky approach had ultimately frayed his team to the point of dissolution.

It also turned out that one urgent approach is not the same as another. Marsch limited a team that had previously used width, and proved unable to overcome both the problems of scoring goals and conceding them. He was also unlucky that, after saving Leeds from relegation, he lost senior players to Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, who were sold the following summer.

“I don’t want them to sing my name, I want them to sing who we are,” Marsch said after a final defeat to Brentford kept Leeds afloat, a defeat he celebrated wildly, as if he had been proven right. “This is not about one person and it is certainly not about me.” Ultimately, the blame fell heavily on his shoulders.

Leeds may be a parochial club, although the fans would previously have accepted an upper-middle-class Argentine as their own. Marsch struggled for money in the same place where another American, Eddie Lewis, had been a cult hero in the mid-2000s. That the club was moving towards 100% ownership by the 49ers Enterprises Global Football Group could not protect him, nor could the club’s American players, Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, prevent his dismissal in February 2023.

That Marsch was a good candidate for jobs at Leicester and Southampton later that season suggested that the boardrooms had not completely given up on him, but he admitted in December: “I wasn’t ready to jump back in yet”. It is possible he has already missed his chance at another chance, but his recent publicity drive suggests he wants a second chance that never came for Bradley, whose time in the Premier League with Swansea is considered an unfortunate one. Bradley, previously linked with jobs at West Brom, Hull and Sunderland, found himself in a downturn at a club in South Wales. Once again American investors played a role in his recruitment, but their own unpopularity in the city meant he could only last eleven games and 85 days during which Swansea conceded 29 goals.

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Bradley, quiet and thoughtful, had done good work in Norway at Stabæk and France at Le Havre following up on his USMNT exploits and spoke well enough at his unveiling in a Swansea hotel, although there was talk of ‘PKs’ and ‘road games’ drew grins from gathered hacks. An incredible 5-4 win at Crystal Palace remains memorable, but Sky’s Soccer AM develops the character of “Brad Bobley”, a series of cruel sketches that have aged horribly, said more about its creators than its target. Six years later, Marsch was received much more respectfully, but Bradley left as a stranger from the league in which he had long aspired to make an impact.

Bob Bradley coached Swansea for just eleven games. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Bradley inherited a group that had served under three managers in four years and was even less responsive to him. “Believe me, not one of those players knows who Ronald Reagan is,” Bradley said, responding to accusations that players had derided his tactics as being from the 1980s.

As with Marsch, circumstances were not on his side, but the truth of most management appointments is that they are the result of someone else’s failure. Marsch, or AN Other, may have to take on a club better prepared for the optimal opportunity to establish the credibility of American coaches within English football. Once that happens, others will undoubtedly follow.